By Max Hrenda
After serving in the Carter County Sheriff’s Department, Elizabethton Police Department and the U.S. Army, retired Lt. Col. James Parrish is asking Carter County voters for a chance to serve them again, but this time in a slightly different capacity.
On Thursday afternoon, Parrish officially announced his candidacy for sheriff of Carter County.
“I want to provide steady, veteran leadership,” Parrish said. “It’s something I’ve thought about since I first started with the sheriff’s department in 1987. My law enforcement leadership experience and my preparation … uniquely qualify me for the (position).”
With his announcement, Parrish joins retired Tennessee highway patrolman Dexter Lunceford and incumbent Sheriff Chris Mathes as the three candidates vying for the position. But as an independent candidate, Parrish will not need to participate in the May 6 Republican primary – unlike Mathes and Lunceford – and will instead face the winner of that primary in the general election on Aug. 7.
Although Parrish said he had often considered a pursuit of the sheriff’s seat, after his retirement from the military – which took place earlier this month – he said that consideration was reinforced by friends.
“When I came home … a lot of my friends approached me and encouraged me to run for sheriff,” Parrish said. “Anybody that joins the sheriff’s department, they all think about becoming sheriff; it’s a natural reaction. I’ve worked hard to prepare myself for this opportunity over the past 25 years.”
A Carter County native, Parrish began pursuing his interest in law enforcement shortly after his graduation from Happy Valley High School in 1982. After earning his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from East Tennessee State University, in 1987, Parrish began his career with the sheriff’s department working as a corrections officer. That same year, he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment of the Tennessee Army National Guard. It was also the year that he and his wife, Tami, married and started their family.
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